Off The Malecón, Havana, Cuba, 2017
Off the Malecón, Havana, Cuba, 2017

Cuba (& Post-Cuba)

Pop!, Havana, Cuba, 2017

Central Havana, Cuba, 2017

Gun Range, Havana, Cuba, 2017

The Malecón in a Storm, Havana, Cuba, 2017


Hello, my dears!  How have you been?

It has been some time since I’ve been back from Cuba—about three weeks—and yet it might as well have been yesterday, so vivid it stays in my mind.  From the moment the taxi swept down the highway from the airport to Central Havana, I was somewhere my soul and heart already intimately knew.  That I’d never visited this country didn’t matter—some powerful magic was going on, a magic I’ve felt only a few times in my previous travels, like in Transylvania or Bhuj, Gujurat.  For ten days, my love and I stayed in Havana, largely in the plus populaire (or working class) neighborhood around our casa particulaire.  Cameras in hand (he is also a photographer), we learned as much about how each other moves as we did the rhythms of the city streets, building a language of gestures and expressions that saw us silently communicating across street corners by the end.  With his fluent Spanish and my wide smile, we made acquaintanceships that brought us into private homes and even resulted in private tours of a couple of national treasures.  We haunted our little part of Havana long enough that we enjoyed a taste of being “local” ourselves—taxi drivers recognizing and stopping to talk with us, restaurant chefs coming out to talk each evening, old men in the plazas calling us over each morning (Ballerina! came the yell, accompanied with big waves).  I truly didn’t want to come home; I wanted to stay for another series of weeks, disconnected from the world, taking photographs, and being impossibly in love with this man I’ve now known for six months.

And what about the photographs?  I think they might be, if my love-added eyes aren’t mistaken, among the best I’ve taken.  I’ve spent some of the past three weeks working through a few handful, and I am quite pleased with how they are forming.  But what fills my mind and makes me happy is how, as soon as I looked at Havana from my balcony that first afternoon, a much bigger project sprang to mind.  This big project is one that will be in development for some time, and I’m already scoping out dates for a return to Cuba later this year.

Old Havana, Cuba, 2017

Off the Malecón, Havana, Cuba, 2017


But with the beautiful often also comes the bad… And the bad is why I haven’t posted since before jetting off to Havana.  I’ve been getting sicker.  In fact, let me be frank.  I’ve been so sick, I have—without drama intended—been pondering the meanings of life and death.  This sickness is excruciating pain—at first (a week before leaving for Cuba) whenever I ate (no food was safe), but then, just always (starting a fews days into Cuba).  Since then, I have simply existed in pain, and I don’t mean that lightly or hyperbolically, and my current specialist, the head of a large midtown practice, can’t see the cause.  It seems cancers have been ruled out, along with other scary diseases.  He can’t find simple explanations like ulcers, either.  I have had painful, invasive procedures done, and more are slated to happen.  Next week I go to a new doctor who I hope will be more aggressive and discerning.  A few days ago, I was given a pill to take before meals, and for a couple of days, it was like magic—I could eat!  But that seems to have passed and the pain is back.  What do I eat?  Mostly white bread, French, made with natural levain.  It hurts, but it hurts the least of everything.

I tell you so you know.  Because this is happening—it just is—and there’s no point hiding from it or thinking it will pass.  Something is wrong, though what it is remains a mystery, and that mystery can be a frightening thing.  An exhausting thing, too.

This is why I haven’t been posting…

But if the beautiful is often accompanied by the bad, the opposite is just as true.  Traveling and photographing in Cuba during this health decline was hard (for two of the ten days, I stayed in bed and stared at the ceiling), but there’s a reason I made it through.  My beloved.  He cared for me in a way I have never been cared for.

If anyone, any reader, has a GI specialist in New York City whom they love and trust, I would welcome a referral…

More photos and thoughts of Cuba and travel (and Paris) soon…

This Post Has 20 Comments

  1. Please take care of yourself. I can truly understand. I have been sick for over 10 years and had 3 bouts of unrelated cancer. The aftermath is what no one can figure out. It is impossible to eat and the pain is excruciating. So with all my heart ( i carry you in my heart) I wish for an answer for you and a carry doctor
    who won’t give up on you. I have missed you very much. I wish you would tell more about Cuba,
    It was once called a communist Disneyland.

  2. Dear Catherine I wish with all my heart that I had a referral in Manhattan for you. I’m glad to know that you are aggressively seeking help and that tests have ruled out the scariest possibilities. If a specialist cannot identify the cause they will sometimes just go ahead and treat the symptoms but that can be hit or miss. I hope very soon you will connect with a physician who can figure this out.

    Your absence in this space had me imagining you busy with your writing project and your photo projects but I never imagined you being so ill. It’s good that you have managed to continue with your creative work but I am so so sorry for the other. As for your love, what is there to say but that knowing this kind of love is a gift beyond measure. How wonderful that this transformative experience is yours. Cherish every moment.

    Catherine, it’s so nice to ‘hear your voice’ here again. Thank you for sharing the wonderful new images and for continuing to share your creative journey xoxo

  3. I am glad to hear your update, although very sorry you are in pain. Your photos are wonderful and I thank you for sharing them through your pain. I hope you find a diagnosis and treatment very soon.

  4. Dear C., please take care and I hope you find an excellent and caring GI speicialist soon. Have missed you, enjoy seeing your photos of Cuba, and so very sorry to ead of your illness. Xox, L.

  5. I am glad you are “back.” I’ve enjoyed the pictures both here and on IG. I hope you find the cause of this pain & discomfort, and are on the path to kicking it out of your system. As Helene said, a positive is that it ruled out the big scary ones and of course someone who cares and brings vibrancy and joy to your life by your side.

  6. YES, among the best of your photographs! Truly masterful pictures, congratulations. I admire you so very much dear C., that you are so incredibly productive despite the health concerns. My heart goes out to you on the health front, I wish I could help.
    Hugs from Dublin, AV

  7. Hi!
    Did you tell you doctor that you are a photographer ? Did you have a heavy metal poisoning test or something like that to see if the chemical products you used were safe?
    FYI, I’m not a doctor, it just an idea.
    BTW, aloe vera +Apple smoothies (once a day on empty stomac) is very soothing when I have stomach problems.
    I hope your new doctor gives you an answer. It’s really frustrating when you’re I’ll and don’t know the cause.
    Take care

  8. I have been checking in here often, to check if there is anything new from you! Love your blog and IG! I am so sorry that you do not feel well.
    I understand that your are not diagnosted ulcerative colitis, but wanted to share some experience: I have a friend thats has that and she gets much better when she…smoke cigarettes! I am ashamed to even mention this “alternative” but just wanted to share. The specialist recommended it to her, as a matter of fact…
    Wishing you all, all the best!// Eva from Sweden

  9. I’m so happy to see more of your beautiful photography, and so sorry to hear about your health challenges. It must be frustrating and frightening. I’m in awe of your equanimity, and glad that you have your beloved. Wishing you peace and comfort.

  10. I am so sorry to hear about your poor health — how utterly awful. But I am glad you are able to find comfort in your work and with your love — you are in my prayers and I hope you will be able to get the help you need very soon xx

  11. So wonderful to see you incredible photos and so sad to hear about your health problems. How frustrating not having a diagnosis and what a relief for you that the big scary options have been eliminated. I hope you find a doctor who can help you, and am so very happy for you to have such love and warmth in your life!

  12. I hope you will be able to find a good GI person and find a diagnosis that explains the severe problems you have been experiencing.
    New York surely has some good people in the field .
    I used homeopathy for my clients and continue to use it for myself and family . A miracle IMO , but as an adjunct to conventional medicine if there is an underlying condition.
    Cuba is obviously a photographer’s paradise . If I were to fly so far I’d rather carry on to Tobago , no old cars or stunningly decaying architecture but a wildlife paradise.
    Sending best wishes and cheering for L’Amour !

  13. Hello dear AA! I am very sorry to hear about your health problems. As a celiac person I can understand how hard it is to live with stomach ache and no clear remedy for a long time -being celiac disease tough to diagnose for many patients. Just as a brain storming exercise – have you been tested for gluten, yeast, and other intolerances? Also after the celiac disease diagnosis I have had bouts of IBS that literally make it impossible to eat anything because of the pain. The cause for this seemed to be stress. After identifying this I have been able to manage myself better (my stomach at least …now stress for me equals insomnia, which I prefer over any stomach pain!)
    I send you my best wishes for you to recover as soon possible! Sandra

    1. I concur. The pain from IBS is excrutiating.

      As a fellow IBS sufferer, in my case due to Fibromyalgia, stress is definitely the most important factor. And the body does not distinguish good stress (excitement) from bad. For me, calm and quiet is so important. I also found the FODMAP diet to be very helpful, and as long as I stick to it I am pretty good. Even the tiniest bit of onion, garlic, or wheat can set me off for days. This diet was recommended by a GI specialist in France to one of my students.

      Make sure to rule out what can be ruled out, and go from there.

  14. I am so sorry to read this. Were you feeling better in Paris? Did you have these issues in OK? Does it have to do with stress? The intestines often reflect how we digest emotionally. It is wonderful that you are loved and these pictures are marvelous, especially the one with the children. Best wishes and hugs.

  15. Dear Catherine., my heart goes out to you. My experience tells me that some GI issues have a strong mind/body/stress connection yet you are in the wonderful throes of endorphin producing love. And have been getting worse. Baffling. You certainly live in the right part of the country to find the best treatment. and I pray that you will.

    Despite all that, your pictures out of Paris and Cuba are stunning. Some of your best yet. . Cuba is in my soul though I have never been there . My parents were from Havana and I grew up with Cuba haunting me. I’ll be there soon but fear that I won’t “belong” – hard to articulate – though everything about it is so familiar. Even your pictures – esp the children’s poses! Curious to hear about your idea.

    Get. Well.

  16. Just a thought Catherine, as I know you like sushi – have you been checked for a parasitic worm infection that can be caused by eating raw fish? I believe the pain if they bury in your stomach lining can be excruciating.

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